Friendship and the couch

Published: November 15, 2007 | Last Updated: November 16, 2007 By | 3 Replies Continue Reading

In a recent article in the UK Telegraph entitled, Could
friendships be ruining your life?
journalist Tim Shipman reports that the
American self-help industry is booming as we are becoming increasingly aware of
toxic friendships. He points to the pervasive use of the term in our culture—noting
the growing number of popular books and TV shows on the topic (As further
evidence, he adds that the subject has even been covered on Oprah Winfrey).

“The realization that friends can be the cause of
unhappiness is fueling a rapid rise in the number of people consulting
therapists,” writes Shipman. He reports that 10,000 psychologists and
counselors are providing sessions focused on friendships. Whether or not the
number is correct (and I’m not sure whether it is high or low) it raises the
question of whether and when a history of fractured friendships should drive a
woman into therapy.

How can you avoid the


To extricate yourself from an unhealthy friendship, you need
to overcome the guilt of leaving. Whatever the reason, if you are feeling
uncomfortable in a relationship, you have the right and responsibility to put
yourself first. Remember that good friendships are good for your health and
happiness, but toxic ones are exactly that: toxic.


All breakups are painful but particularly when they are
one-sided. When that happens, it’s easy to feel rejected and take it very
personally. Yet even these heal with the tincture of time. If your pain
persists, talk out the problem with a sibling or spouse, or other uninvolved
friend who can help you gain perspective.


Just because you have a rift or a friendship drifts apart,
it isn’t necessarily a sign of pathology. Friendships, even strong ones, come
and go. If you can get over the “myth of best friends forever,” these breakups
will be less painful when they occur.

When should you
consider the couch?

Look for patterns. If you find that you REPEATEDLY make bad
choices in friends—particularly those who are abusive, untrustworthy, and
belittling—you may benefit from talking to a mental health professional.
Also, if you find yourself jilted over and over and have no insight into why it
is happening, you might benefit from therapy or counseling. Most professionals
would agree that therapy is indicated when an individual’s thoughts, feelings
or behaviors interfere with their ability to successfully carry out their
roles—as friends, students, parents, partners, workers, or so forth..

The large majority of friendships tend to be dynamic,
changing as individuals and their life circumstances change. While there
shouldn’t be stigma or guilt associated with a broken friendship, there also
shouldn’t be any stigma associated with seeking professional help when needed.



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Comments (3)

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  1. Breakups in relationships is always difficult, I’ve written my own idea of best handling them – never nice, but gets better.

  2. Irene says:

    Dear anonymous:

    Most women are able to get over a friendship that ends but some women find that they repeatedly have one unrewarding female friendship after another—or that the loss of a particular female friendship is so devastating that they need professional help in coping.

    If we are fortunate enough to have good friends, family and other supports in our lives to whom we can talk—and if we are able to share our feelings candidly without shame, we can work through many of these issues effectively on our own or with a little help from our friends. 

    When this doesn’t work, some women prefer to speak to therapists—to each her own! 


  3. Anonymous says:

    I was not aware that women took losing a friend so seriously in which they had to go see a therapist instead of talking to another friend about the situation. I think therapy is somewhat of a scam (not in all situations, just some such as a woman losing one friend).

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